Treating non-gonococcal urethritis 

Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) is usually treated with a short course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria that caused the infection.

The healthcare professionals at the genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic will arrange your treatment.

If your urethritis is caused by gonorrhoea, this may be treated differently.


Treatment with antibiotics may be started before you receive your test results (read about diagnosing NGU for information about these tests).

If your test results do not identify an infection, or your NGU is related to inflammation caused by an object, cream or soap, antibiotics are also used frequently. 

Most people with NGU are prescribed antibiotic tablets or capsules. This may be:

  • azithromycin – which is taken just once as a single dose
  • doxycycline – which is taken twice a day for seven days

You will usually not need to return to the clinic as long as you have:

  • taken your treatment
  • made sure that any recent partners have been treated
  • not had any sex until a week after everyone has been treated

It may sometimes take two or three weeks for your symptoms to disappear completely.

You should not have sex, including vaginal, anal and oral sex, until:

  • you have finished your course of doxycycline, or it has been seven days since you took azithromycin
  • you have no symptoms
  • your partner or partners have also been treated

Side effects

Antibiotics may cause some side effects, such as:

Read more about medicines for NGU.

Antibiotics used to treat NGU may interact with the combined contraceptive pill and the contraceptive patch. If you use these methods of contraception, your GP or nurse can advise you about which additional contraception is suitable.

NGU and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

While not all cases of NGU are caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is possible to pass on NGU during sex. Therefore, you should treat all cases of NGU as an STI and ensure that all recent partners have been treated.

You also shouldn't have any kind of sex until you are certain the condition has cleared up.

NGU does not tend to cause any noticeable symptoms in women, but can still affect a woman's long-term health. The bacteria associated with NGU can trigger the development of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is more serous

Therefore, you should always tell your current partner and any recent sexual partners if you are diagnosed with NGU. They will also need to be tested and treated for the condition.

Informing partners

It is important that your current sexual partner is tested and treated. Any sexual partners you have had since being exposed to the STI will also need to be informed, so they can be tested and treated.

It is suggested that you inform any person you have had sex with in the last three months, but this timeframe can vary. The healthcare professionals at the GUM clinic can advise you.

Some people can feel angry, upset or embarrassed about discussing STIs with their current partner or previous partners. However, don't be afraid to discuss your concerns with the healthcare professionals at the GUM or sexual health clinic. They can advise you about who to contact and the best way to contact them.

With your permission, the clinic can arrange for a "contact slip" to be given to your former partner or partners. The slip explains that they may have been exposed to an STI and advises them to have a check-up. The slip does not have your name on it, and your details will remain totally confidential.

Nobody can force you to tell any of your partners about your STI, but it is strongly recommended that you do. Left untested and untreated, STIs such as chlamydia can have serious effects on a person's health, particularly for women.

Complications of untreated chlamydia include:

  • infection of the testicles in men
  • infection of the cervix (neck of the womb) in women
  • PID – which can increase the risk of infertility and ectopic pregnancy

Treatment failure

If the symptoms of non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) do not get better two weeks after you start to take antibiotics, you should return to the genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic.

You will be asked if you took the medication correctly and whether anyone who may have NGU that has not been treated could have passed the infection back to you. 

You may need further tests to confirm your diagnosis and to check for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Read more about diagnosing NGU

In some cases you may be given a new prescription for some different antibiotics to treat the NGU.

Page last reviewed: 02/09/2014

Next review due: 02/09/2016